Funded under the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Urban Partnership Program, the Minnesota UPA projects focus on reducing congestion by employing strategies consisting of combinations of tolling, transit, telecommuting/TDM, and technology, also known as the 4 Ts. The Minnesota UPA projects along the I-35W corridor in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area include high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, a priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL), active traffic management (ATM) strategies, new and expanded park-and-ride lots, new buses, a drive assist system (DAS) for shoulder-running buses, dual bus lanes in downtown Minneapolis, real-time traffic and transit information, and telework programs.
Data sources from Metro Transit and MVTA, along with special studies and surveys, were used to analyze the Minnesota UPA transit projects, including:
- Bus travel-time data and on-time performance data collected through the Metro Transit automatic vehicle location (AVL) system and the MVTA AVL system and on-board surveyors.
- Park-and-ride lot counts and license plate surveys conducted by Metro Transit and MVTA.
- Ridership data for bus routes in the I-35W South, I-35W North, and Cedar Avenue corridors. The I-394 corridor, which also has a MnPASS HOT lane, and the I-94 North corridor were used as control corridors for the transit analysis.
Other data sources used in this analysis included the on-board surveys of passengers conducted by Metro Transit and the focus groups of Metro Transit and MVTA bus operators sponsored by MnDOT.
- Ridership levels on I-35W South routes experienced an increase of 13 percent and 7 percent on I-35W North routes. These increases occurred against the backdrop of high unemployment rates, which appear to have dampened higher increases.
- Buses traveling in the HOT lanes in the Crosstown Commons section recorded the largest increase in speeds in both directions of travel. Bus speeds increased by 29.0 mph in the northbound direction and 10.5 mph in the southbound direction.
- There was a 3.2 mph decrease in speeds with buses using the PDSL segment in the northbound direction. There was also a 1.9 mph decrease in bus speeds on the HOT lanes south of I-494 in the northbound direction during the morning peak. With the addition of toll paying MnPASS vehicles, there are more vehicles in the HOT lanes than the previous HOV lanes, resulting in the slight decrease in speeds.
- Bus travel times decreased by approximately 4 minutes overall in the northbound direction. There was a travel-time reduction of approximately 5 minutes in the Crosstown Commons section offsetting slight increases in bus travel times south of I-494 and in the PDSL section. In the southbound direction, bus travel times were reduced by a little over one minute in the Crosstown Commons section and HOT segment south of I-494.
- The bus operators reported that they liked using the MnPASS lanes, and noted they save 10 minutes a trip due to the HOT lanes.